This month our focus is on the question of whether or not marijuana should be legalized. We’ll explore that question at our Twin City Talks Live! community conversation tonight. It’s sold out but we’ll be live-tweeting the highlights and you can find a wrap-up of the event on twincitytalks.com.
Our podcast guest is Colin Miller, co-founder of the Twin City Harm Reduction Collective, which seeks to improve the health and lives of drug users in the community.
Miller advocates for criminal justice and treatment policy reform. He’s also a regular marijuana user and believes it should be decriminalized.
Miller’s work is borne from his own experience. He started using alcohol, cigarettes and marijuana as a pre-teen in Minneapolis.
“A lot of the people I grew up around marijuana is not looked at as a negative thing,” he says. “The ideas I got growing up is as long as it’s just weed that’s okay.”
By his late teens he had moved on to heroin. He credits a needle-exchange program there for keeping him safe and eventually allowing to enter recovery treatment on his own terms.
He moved from Minnesota to Pennsylvania to North Carolina, admitting he did so to stay ahead of the law. Eventually he settled down here, getting a degree from Guilford College.
His experience with the harm reduction programs from home led his to start one here, co-funded with his mentor Steve “Gator” Daniels, despite pushback from people opposed to needle-exchange programs.
“We were doing syringe exchange…illegally out of our car trunks and meeting people in parking lots and stuff,” he says. “And then once needle exchange was legalized in 2016, that’s when we went legit.”
Now the Twin City Collective runs a needle-exchange program and Naloxone distribution program out of Green Street United Methodist Church.
Miller doesn’t believe his pot use led him to harder drugs, and dismisses the idea of marijuana as a so-called “gateway drug” to be a myth.
He says the perception of it being a dangerous drug has been slowly fading for decades. But making it legal still faces obstacles.
“It’s a scary position to sort of say ‘I think marijuana should be legalized’ or ‘I think we should talk about drug decriminalization’ when you’ve had political campaigns that have been built for decades and decades on getting tough on crime,” he says. “That’s a big move, and that’s not something that’s going to happen overnight.”
In our podcast, Miller discusses why he thinks marijuana can be a tough subject to talk about, and how it can be used to help people reduce their use of opioids.